16.172 embodiment

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty (w.mccarty@btinternet.com)
Date: Thu Aug 22 2002 - 10:07:40 EDT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 16, No. 172.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

       [1] From: Joseph Ferenbok <jferenbo@ualberta.ca> (25)
             Subject: Re: Embodiment

       [2] From: Aimee Morrison (35)
             Subject: RE: 16.166 embodiment

       [3] From: "Bruni, John P" <jbrun@ukans.edu> (11)
             Subject: RE: 16.166 embodiment

             Date: Thu, 22 Aug 2002 06:51:41 -0700
             From: Joseph Ferenbok <jferenbo@ualberta.ca>
             Subject: Re: Embodiment

    Why is consciousness associated with the Brain?

    Well, first of all, I'm not sure that that's the right question. Generally,
    consciousness is associated with the mind, and the Mind is then associated
    with the Brain. As Kurzweil points out, the Brain stores information in a
    decentralized fashion, so the death or destruction of one brain cell or even a
    small portion of the brain does not have dire consequences for the Mind. I
    think this is what has prompted people like Moravec to suggest that the Mind
    is our identity, and that we are Pattern-Identities as he calls it; implying
    that the Mind is like software that can be 'downloaded.' And among others
    Locke is to blame for this, by suggesting that we are nothing more than blank
    sheets of paper to be imprinted by life. I have a hard time believing that we
    are simply our information patterns or minds like Moravec suggests, partly
    because, as Kate Hayles points out, information needs a medium. And the
    medium that gives information 'substance' impacts the nature of the
    information that it carries.

    So why is the brain associated with consciousness? Because more so than any
    other organ in the body, changes to the Brain effect changes to the Mind.
    Loosing a limb, may change the information patter of the Mind over a period of
    time, but loosing a hemisphere of your brain will definitely impact your
    notion of self (though separating the two hemispheres seems to have little
    impact on consciousness or identity).

    Sorry for the rant.

    Humanities Computing MA (IP)
    University of Alberta

             Date: Thu, 22 Aug 2002 07:00:40 -0700
             From: Aimee Morrison <ahm@ualberta.ca>
             Subject: RE: 16.166 embodiment

    >Any attempt to separate mind from body is flawed and that the presumed
    >location of the mind in the brain is inaccurate??

    katherine hayles addresses this in _how we became posthuman_. she notes that
    writers most likely to trumpet the separation of Mind from Body are those
    whose embodiment was least problematic to begin with: generally, white,
    middle class, educated men. it is worth noticing that very few of those
    subjects possessing more visible, problematized, contested bodies are rushing
    to join the queue to disburden themselves of corporeality. this recognition
    ought to spur us to question, i think, the purpose of the drive to separate
    mind and body.

    the standard account from hayles and others is that in cyberculture this
    tendency is exacerbated by trends in information theory from the 1950s
    forward, most notably claude shannon's separation of 'information' from the
    vehicle of its transmission. that is, information is information and the
    means by which it travels is literally immaterial. that may be all fine and
    good for information theory, but if you translate this insight to human
    relations, you remove the context of communication from the determination of
    its meaning -- and play into that long tradition of desiring transcendence
    from this context in the search for 'pure' self and communication.

    rooting consciousness in embodiment re-inserts concern with the sender and
    receiver of information, with 'communication' and 'meaning' as contextually
    bound, and information as interpretation-dependent. of course, these contexts
    are those of enculturation and embodied subjectivity. this is human, i think.
       if the only kind of intelligence with which we are familiar is this
    human kind, then it makes perfect sense that trying to emulate this
    'intelligence' in agents we design as bodiless is going to fail, at least by
    the standards we are setting for intelligence.

    hm. i offer this telegraphed account for what it's worth,

    . ++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Aimee Morrison "Nothing in education is so
    PhD Program, Dept. of English astonishing as the amount of
    University of Alberta ignorance it accumulates in the
    ahm@ualberta.ca form of inert facts."
                                               -- Henry Adams

             Date: Thu, 22 Aug 2002 07:01:28 -0700
             From: "Bruni, John P" <jbrun@ukans.edu>
             Subject: RE: 16.166 embodiment

    My feedback on the issue of understanding the world through the body:

    The mind/body split has historically meshed with dominant ideologies of
    race, class, and gender that ascribe the "higher" function of thought/reason
    to white upper class males, who then are granted the privilege of (an
    imagined) non-corporeality, while those who differ in race, class, and
    gender are seen as permanently bound to the "lower" realm of the body and
    thus perceived as able to think, if at all, in limited, subjective, terms.

    For more on this matter, it may be helpful to refer to Donna Haraway's
    _Modest Witness_ and Laura Doyle's _Bordering on the Body_.

    John Bruni
    Department of English
    University of Kansas

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